The personal and the beautiful: short-list for the 2014 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine

Poets from New York and South Africa, a trainee child health doctor, and a dentist from Belfast are among finalists for this year’s Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. At £5000, in both Open and NHS categories, this is one of the highest value poetry awards in the world for a single poem. The winners will be announced at an International Symposium on Poetry and Medicine at the Royal Society of Medicine in London on Saturday May 10th.

Tickets are still available.

R judges 2014

Judges Philip Gross, Robert Francis QC and Sarah Crown

Now in its 5th year, the short-listed entries for the 2014 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine have been selected from over 1000 entries, from 31 countries by judges poet Philip Gross, barrister Robert Francis QC and Mumsnet Editor Sarah Crown.

Short-listed poets in the Open Category are poet Jane Draycott, publisher and poet Ailsa Holland, both from England, poet and novelist Stephanie Gangi from New York City, and Karel Nel, a former pastor and scientist from South Africa.

And competing for the UK NHS 2014 Hippocrates £5000 first prize are dentist Paula Cunningham from Belfast, Valerie Laws from Whitley Bay, who has worked as a poet with pathologists and neuroscientists, and Ellen Storm, a trainee in paediatrics and child health in the Mersey region.

The judges also agreed 20 commendations in the NHS category, and 21 in the Open International category, from England, Ireland, Scotland, Norway, the USA, New Zealand and Australia.

Judge Philip Gross said: ‘Reading the stronger poems in the Open and the NHS categories, I see how many of their qualities they share. Dedicated poet or health professional – maybe each needs the same disciplines of observation and exactness, care and a right handling of emotions, the ability to get up close and yet step back and see it whole.’

Judge Sarah Crown commented: ‘We think of healthcare first and foremost as a scientific arena; a realm of dosages, diagnoses, instruments and odds. The real pleasure of these poems for me was the way in which they made the case for the place, within this arena, of the personal and the beautiful, too.

‘Reading them awakened me to the stories behind the science, and I found myself in tears on more than one occasion. Congratulations to everyone who submitted a poem, and particularly to the winners.’ 

Judge Robert Francis QC remarked "What a celebration of the partnership between patients and those who care for them and their shared will to overcome the frailties which we all have to face!" 

The Hippocrates awards will be presented at a symposium, which will consider the relationship between poetry and medicine, with topics including poetry as therapy, using poetry in health professional training, the impact of health and disease on the professional poet and the history of poetry and medicine.

 The symposium will include contributors from the USA, Australia, Spain, Italy, Denmark, and the UK. 

The Hippocrates Initiative – winner of the 2011 Times Higher Education Award for Innovation and Excellence in the Arts – is an interdisciplinary venture that investigates the synergy between  medicine, the arts, and health.

Notes to editors
Photos of all finalists, along with biographies and extracts of their poems are available on request. Contact 0759 0478078, 07447 441666 or hippocrates.poetry@gmail.com

Awards: In each category there will be: 1st prize £5,000, 2nd prize £1,000, 3rd prize of £500, and 20 commendations each of £50.

The 2014 Hippocrates Anthology of winning and commended poems will be launched at the Awards Ceremony in London on Saturday 10th May.

The Hippocrates Prize judges

Philip Gross’s The Water Table won the T.S. Eliot Prize 2009, I Spy Pinhole Eye Wales Book of The Year 2010, and Off Road to Everywhere the CLPE Award for Children’s Poetry 2011. Deep Field (2011) deals with voice and language, explored through his father’s aphasia, and a new collection, Later, was published by Bloodaxe in Autumn 2013. He has published ten novels for young people, including The Lastling, has collaborated with artists, musicians and dancers, and since 2004 has been Professor of Creative Writing at Glamorgan University. 

Robert Francis QC is a distinguished barrister who specialises in the NHS and medical negligence. He has been a Queen's Counsel for 21 of his 40 years at the bar. He has been involved in many inquiries into the NHS, both as barrister and as chair, most recently chairing the inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire Hospital. According to Peter Walsh, chief executive of the patient safety charity Action against Medical Accidents, Robert Francis has a "passion for justice in healthcare and improving healthcare more generally". 

Sarah Crown is editor of http://www.mumsnet.com/. She was editor of the guardian.co.uk/books from 2007 to 2013. Previous poetry awards for which she has been a member of the judging panels include the Forward Prizes and the Picador Poetry Prize.

Hippocrates Prize Organisers

Professor Donald Singer is President of the Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine. His interests include research on discovery of new therapies, and public understanding of drugs, health and disease. He co-authors Pocket Prescriber, the 7th edition of which is published by Taylor & Francis in May 2014.

Professor Michael Hulse is a poet and translator of German literature, and teaches creative writing and comparative literature at the University of Warwick. He is also editor of The Warwick Review. His latest book of poems, Half-Life (2013), was named a Book of the Year by John Kinsella.

2014 Hippocrates Prize is supported by:


The Fellowship of Postgraduate Medicine, a national medical society founded in 1918 and publisher of the Postgraduate Medical Journal and Health Policy and Technology, has supported the Hippocrates Prize since its launch in 2009.

The Cardiovascular Research Trust, a charity founded in 1996, which promotes research and education for the prevention and treatment of disorders of the heart and circulation. 

 © Hippocrates initiative 2012: hippocrates.poetry@gmail.com